Is FSMA Working?

June 23, 2013

The Food Safety Modernization Act gave the FDA the power to mandate recalls.  In the past the FDA would go to the company whose product was making people sick and try to cajole, threaten or shame them into doing the right thing.

Now with the power which for years they begged, the FDA fails to do the right thing.  In early May, a berry mix from Townsend Farms was identified as the source of a Hepatitis A outbreak.  At the time it seemed like all of the parties involved were moving in slow motion.  Neither Townsend Farms nor the two retailers involved, Costco and Harris Teeter were doing anything.  This was the perfect time for the FDA to do their job, to protect American consumers from food-borne illness, but they do nothing.

On June 4th, Townsend Farms finally issues a voluntary recall.  As of today, ninety-nine people are or were sick with Hepatitis A.  This number might be significantly lower if the FDA had done their job and used their power to mandate recalls given them by FSMA.

At the beginning of the last century, there was the Pure Food and Drug Act.  The Food Safety Modernization Act was supposed to be this century’s building on the legacy.  Instead we see the FDA floundering and FSMA bogged down in fights over funding.


The Obama Administration Could Do Something Monumental For Food Safety

September 2, 2012

According to the Obama administration, as they cut off the funds to the Microbiological Data Program, that program that finds salmonella and listeria on produce saving thousands of people from getting sick and possibly hundreds from dying, the core mission of the USDA is to facilitate the competitive and efficient marketing of agricultural products.  That being said, this administration now has the opportunity to do something monumental for food safety and possibly save some money at the same time.  Take all responsibility for food safety that the USDA has and give it to the FDA.  The FDA is already responsible for the safety of 80% of food products.  Make them responsible for 100%.  It’s all about focus.  Let the Department of Agriculture focus on improving and promoting agriculture.  Let the FDA focus on the safety of our foods and drugs.

Every administration wants to save money.  The FDA and the USDA each get about a billion dollars for food safety.  Save 500 million dollars, give the FDA $1.5 Billion and do something monumental for food safety.


Further Food Safety Budget Cuts

June 9, 2012

When is the Federal Government going to put their money where their mouth is?  Or more aptly when are they going to put our money where our mouths are?  The 2013 budget for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is $996 Million down $9 Million from 2012.  The FDA’s Food Safety and Applied Nutrition hold their own at $866 Million, same as last year.    Using the government’s own numbers, the Center for Disease Control says 48,000,000 get sick, 128,000 go to the hospital, and 3,000 die because of food-borne diseases.  Budget cuts, what are they thinking?

2012 May Be Even Worse

October 28, 2011

28 are dead from Listeria in cantaloupes, 42 sick from Salmonella in pine nuts, E. coli incidents in several states and yet Congress has budgeted 6.5% less for food safety.  The combined 2012 budget for the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Agency and Food Safety at the FDA is $1.72 Billion down from $1.84 Billion for this year.

 Congress was able to find $2 Billion to fund a robot to rove the surface of Mars but with food safety issues on the rise they make what they consider prudent budget cuts.

Does Congress Really Want the FSMA to Work?

June 27, 2011

Asking the FDA to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act and then cutting their budget by 11.5% is like handing a neurosurgeon a butter knife and saying “Go to it”.  The purpose of the FSMA was to move the FDA from containing food safety incidents to actively working to prevent them.  In order to do this the FDA needs more inspectors.  Inspectors mean more money not less. 

It’s almost as if those members of Congress that were lukewarm on the FSMA were told “Get your points for voting for safe food but don’t worry about more regulations, etc. because we won’t fund it.”  What a blatant deception.

A Single Food Safety Agency – It Just Ain’t Going To Happen

December 19, 2010

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has reintroduced her legislation to create a single agency for food safety.  Although the FDA is held responsible for the safety of over 80% of this country’s food, the USDA gets more food safety dollars.  The USDA is a departmental juggernaut.  It’s the one that hands out billions of dollars in farm subsidies; it’s the one that supplies the food stamp bucks.  The FDA is a part of the wimpy HHS (Health and Human Services).  What are the chances of a member of Congress from the Midwest taking dollars away from the USDA, the source of the subsidies going to his state’s farmers, and giving them to the FDA, no matter how much good it would do to improve food safety.  It just ain’t going to happen.

Egg Money

September 11, 2010

Through budgeting, the federal government has limited resources for food safety to $2 Billion.  This is equally split between the FDA and the USDA.  After the Wright County disaster isn’t it time to put all of our eggs in one basket?

If you want to find out what a company, or in this case, a government department holds as important all you have to do is follow the money.  At the USDA food safety is less than 1% of the budget; at the FDA it is over one third.  About 40% of the FDA’s efforts are devoted to food safety, it’s a big deal.  While the USDA does have an Under Secretary for Food Safety, it’s sort of like being the ambassador to the UN from Togo.

There are congressional and senate hearings and proposed legislation regarding food safety and reorganizing for food safety, blah, blah, blah.  It’s simple, just let the USDA go back to grading, counting, and giving away eggs and let the FDA alone worry about salmonella.